Language for Aliens to Understand Us

Google DoodleGoogle challenged kids to doodle. This is one of those up for votes from children in Ontario. I looked at the drawing and my first thought was just that it was hard to read. Then, I read what the idea was behind it. What a great idea, a language to talk with the aliens from other planets.

How would you invent a language which people from other planets (other cultures, traditions, etc.) could understand?


Simply Security Questions

I was registering for an online points service with one of the grocery store chains here in Ontario. Part of the process was choosing a security question and then typing in your (unique and individual) answer. Well, I have a problem with the new security questions which pop up. I was just fine with the old standard Mother’s maiden name or Father’s middle name. I knew those, they had a simple and definite answer. 

Maybe they became too standard, maybe they were less secure as they became over used or maybe not everyone knows this information about their parents. Some how there are now new security questions and I usually can’t find a simple answer for any of them. I don’t remember enough, I don’t have strict enough opinions or I just don’t have a preference and this leaves me with no security questions and answers, too often. It’s frustrating. 

Here are the security questions from my recent adventure with them:

If you could be any historical figure who would you be?

Where did you go on your best vacation?

What is the name of your best friend from childhood?

What was the first concert you attended?

What is the name of your favourite teacher?

Do you have answers for all of them? An answer you are sure of enough to be able to remember and have the same answer months from now? Not me. I can think of a lot of historical figures, none I’d really want to be. My best vacation…. I can’t pick one. My best friend from childhood… too many options, we moved a lot when I was a younger child and then I never really was great at keeping friends or making them. Another memory game… the name of my favourite teacher, I can’t pick one from among the faces I remember and I’m not sure how to spell the names I can remember. First concert was Cher, or Sonny and Cher, I guess. Or was there something else I’ve forgotten. Likely so. I picked the concert question because it was the only one I might answer the same way twice. 

The problem with most of these questions is still that they do not come with simple, definite answers. Different spellings, different abbreviations, different ways of writing them (like short forms versus long forms). Even if you give the same answer it might be wrong because you typed it with capital letters or without any spaces the first time you gave the security question answer. 

This is why the old standards of Mother’s maiden name worked. Just type in a last name, with the first letter as a capital because (of course) it is a proper name. I miss the old, simple security questions. Security seems to be pulling us farther and farther away from the very things we are supposed to be accessing. I think it will be easier for someone else to guess my security answer than for me to remember it. 

What would you use as a great security question? Can you think up a few? 

A Just Looking Fee?

Just looking fee

Here’s what the sign says:
As of the first of February, this store will be charging people a $5 fee per person for “just looking.”

The $5 fee will be deducted when goods are purchased.

Why has this come about?

There has been high volume of people who use this store as a reference and then purchase goods elsewhere. These people are unaware our prices are almost the same as the other stores plus we have products simply not available anywhere else.

This policy is line with many other clothing, shoe and electronic stores who are also facing the same issue.


via Stores Charges Customers $5 ‘Just Looking’ Fee To Combat Showrooming – Yahoo! Finance Canada.

I’m sure there will be a lot of protest against this. But, I do see the logic behind it. Here in Ontario we used to have a chain of wholesale/ retail stores called Consumer’s Distributing. I don’t know what happened to the stores, they went out of business years ago. I still think they had a near perfect business model. People would come to the store, look at the catalogue and write down the page number and the item number of the product they wanted. If there were extra things like colour or size you wrote that down as well. Then you brought your ticket/ note to the service desk. There were always a few people there and one would take your note and go into the warehouse to bring out what you wanted.  You could open it up from the packaging, take a look and make sure it was what you wanted. Then you paid for it and were done.

Stores now are becoming the catalogue for online shoppers. Not fair to them. Not something which will work out in the long range plan. So, I do understand a retail store trying to get people to shop and buy in the store rather than use the store like a catalogue or display, a place where they can deal with the store staff, have them open packaging and then leave the store without making a purchase. This leaves the store paying for staff, lights, insurance, and so on but not getting the sales which they rely on.

I actually shop the opposite way myself. I look at prices online, see what stores have listed and then I go to a real store to have a better look and at this point I almost always buy whatever I was looking at because I have already done my shopping around online. I prefer to buy from the brick and mortar store than the online stores. I like to really see what I’m buying before I open my wallet.

What do you think?

Would you pay the fee to just look – especially knowing you will get the money off your purchase?

Seeking Ghost Hunter

Here’s another ad for a ghost hunter in Ontario.

Haunt ad

What Halton Paranormal Group is looking for in a ghost hunter:

• Technically inclined: The team works with lots of equipment including video cameras, still cameras, voice recorders and K2 meters. The ideal candidate would need to be comfortable working with this equipment and the footage they collect.

• Fearless: Halton Paranormal’s investigations are conducted at night, often in abandoned buildings with no electricity or light sources. If you’re afraid of the dark, creepy buildings or unexplained noises, you need not apply.

• Quiet: A lot of the investigation requires sitting for long periods listening and observing. A quiet, still individual would be well suited for ghost hunting.

• Trustworthy: Ghost hunting requires trust between all the team members so they can accurately gauge their observations and experiences while investigating a potentially haunted area.

• Belief in ghosts: Not necessary. The group always tries to debunk its findings.

via Toronto-area paranormal investigators seek ghost hunter –

Finding the Great OuterSelf – From Rooster’s Restaurant in Barrie, Ontario.

  1. A little known part of the human psyche that yearns for the outside world.
  2. A mind state unintentionally ignored by those who spend too much time indoors.

Although it’s an ad campaign for Moosehead beer, the idea is true enough. Could you write a character who spends all his or her time outdoors? Possibly a hermit in some mountain cabin, a street person living in a city, or someone sailing around the world on a small boat. What scenarios can you come up with for a total outdoors person and what kind of person would they be, or have become?

Abandoned Gardens

It`s a sad thing to explore an abandoned site and find what is left of a garden. Once planned out, nurtured now vacated and forgotten. Sometimes there isn`t much left to ever know it had been a garden. Only the perennials and a few biennials (which grow from their own seeds) can stand fast against the wild and ready weedsé native plants.

In Spring it is usually the bulbs like daffodils which I see. Now it is the time of the iris and the daylily. I often take a photo of the abandoned garden. I don`t always post them to my Flickr account or the Ontario Rural Ruins group I started for rural exploring. There isn`t all that much to really see. I think, having been there, the photos have more meaning to me than someone who can only see a flower or two and not visualize the abandoned garden the way I saw it at the time.

Write about an abandoned garden. What grows there, what used to grow there and what might the fate of it be?

Flickr: Neglected Friends

Flickr: Abandoned Gardens

Flickr: Weeds in the Pavement

Flickr: Overgrowth

Flickr: Nature Prevails

Flickr: Nature Will Out

Flickr: Nature Laughs Last

Flickr: Reclaimed by Nature

Flickr: Land Reclaimed by Nature

Flickr: Wildness – The Edge of Nature – About living on the edge of nature.

It’s a Pancake Morning

Victoria Day weekend here in Ontario today. I made pancakes for breakfast for the group. This is the recipe I went with, standard and basic and simple. Of course, I changed it to suit myself. Half the sugar, added a touch of real vanilla and I added some white vinegar to the milk and let it sit a few minutes to turn it into buttermilk. I cooked them in a hot pan with butter melting all over the bottom to give it a nice stick-free coating. I could have added blueberries, but I really don’t like fruit added to anything, except when it is dipped in chocolate.

Happy long weekend if you have one. Make the most of your day off.


1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 egg
2 – 3 tablespoons oil

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the milk, oil and eggs. Mix well and try to get some of the lumps out of the batter. Don’t worry about making it perfectly smooth. It will be fine.

Heat a skillet on medium heat. When heated, scoop the pancake batter recipe into the frying pan with a large spoon to make individual pancakes. The pan will probably only take 1 or two pancakes at a time. Cook on one side until the top begins to bubble, then flip over and cook on the other side.

  • Omit the sugar for a sugar free pancake recipe. It will obviously be less sweet but it still tastes great. You can also replace the sugar with your favorite sugar alternative.
  • Once the pancake batter is in the pan, dot the surface of the pancake with blueberries, raspberries or thin slices of banana. Everyone will love it and it is a great way to get more fruit in your diet.
  • A tasty tip, especially for diabetics. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to our easy pancake recipe. It adds wonderful taste and the bonus for diabetics is that cinnamon helps control blood sugar a bit.
  • You can omit the oil, but it adds a nice richness to the batter. If you leave it out you will probably need a bit of oil in your pan when you fry them.

Choreography in Battle

Men like to fight, scrap around and have a little horse-play in general. Most of it is fairly harmless. Like other large predators they have the instinct to not injure each other too badly unless it’s over something really important. Last night I watched a group of men fighting (on TV). They wore cardboard, used cardboard battle gear, it was kind of funny to watch them go at each other with plain brown cardboard boxes. They call it Box Wars.

Box Wars begin in Australia. The local Toronto chapter here in Ontario are the men I saw on TV. I’m sending the link to my 14 year old nephew. Not just because it looks like fun for himself and a group of his friends, but because I’d like to see him get into the engineering and planning of building equipment and battle gear out of cardboard. It will take some thought to figure out how to make the cardboard work, how to build effective fighting gear that doesn’t just fall apart.

What else would be interesting as material for men to slam each other with, something that isn’t likely to hurt them, too much? Could you write about a battle with this material or the cardboard as above? Have you ever written a battle scene. It takes some choreography to keep track of the arms and legs, not unlike a sex scene.